Art is alive in well in the Peoria-Pekin area. The Speakeasy Art Center in Pekin, Illinois is a happening place and colorful place where artists like James Flanigan, Shannon Cox, Doug Halstead, and many others practice their craft and enrich daily life with art in Central Illinois. Let’s step into this building on a rainy morning. We’ll pass through the double glass doors into the gallery area.
Here’s one angle of the gallery area; they do their wine shares behind the bar.
That stage is where they have bands play during their wine shares and art openings.
Their art gallery is exhibiting two artists currently: Doug Halstead and James Flanigan.
James serves as the director of the Speakeasy art center as well. He agreed to show me around today. Here is James with one of his sculptures: “Psalm.”
James is a talented and multi-faceted artist. Inventive and creative paintings, sculptures and carvings are produced by him and displayed here in the art center. Later we’ll go up to his office to see some more of his work. James has been director of this space since October 2012.
He takes pride that his art center puts on 12 shows a year—unheard of by many other art galleries in the region. “We want people to anticipate the next show,” said Flanigan.
The Speakeasy itself is full of character, as you can notice their tin ceilings from the building’s past.
This place was once a Speakeasy, hence the name Speakeasy Art Center. Going up two floors we get a slice of history. Prohibition was a time when people who sought after libations would patronize clandestine taverns and bars known as Speakeasies. Here’s Flanigan peering through a peephole that would have been used by security personnel of the Speakeasy.
Who knows, maybe Alphonse Capone once sipped on a Sazerac or a few fingers of rye with Machine Gun Kelley inside of here in days gone by?
Inside the prohibition era speakeasy chamber is a mural decorated room where a medieval sword fighting guild meets. This area is also where artists can a 12x12 foot space in an open area for a month. That’s 144 square inches of workspace for only a small monthly fee.
Doug Halstead’s studio, “The Wigwam” is located right next to the old speakeasy chamber. He’s passionate about his Native American heritage and he even has the place decorated with the Indian Ten Commandments.
Here’s some more of Halstead’s work.
Eventually, the Speakeasy Art Center wants to offer residency programs for university art students. After a competition—a student would be selected every six weeks for the residency. This residency or internship would be about helping a young art student establish a body of work, and understand the working art world more. It would involve the student working 12-15 hours a week and working an art show for the Center. The zoning needs to be changed for this to happen though at the Speakeasy.
We get to see James Flannigan’s office. On the wall he has a painting of his girlfriend Gina, that’s bright and happy.
James showed me a piece he did combining his skills and talents as both a painter and a carpenter.
Here’s some of Shannon Cox’s camera collection at The Speakeasy Art Center. Some of these cameras belonged to members of her family.
It makes you ask the question of what those lenses got to see over their years of use.
The Speakeasy is also an education center. Classes in printmaking, spoken-word poetry, music, clay, and painting are all a part of the educational program the Speakeasy Art Center has. The general fee for classes is $120 for six weeks or $25 per class. The gallery is also available for weddings and other events. For further reading check them out on facebook.
Speaking Of The Speakeasy Art Center...
There's a craft beer night going on there this Thursday. Check out the details below. It sounds like a ton of fun, but I have to work that night. Sob! You should definitely check it out, the proceeds are going for a good cause. Think and drink locally, folks!